One time, I had a wise, old soul who shared some wisdom with me. Even in my darkest hours, it has remained within my heart. He took a kind look at me and said, “Happiness is an inside job.”
If you hang around people who are recovering alcoholics and addicts for a bit (as I have), then you may have heard this before. If you aren’t part of that crowd, then a good friend or someone who cared about you may have offered these cogent words.
Happiness is not a goal on a checklist of life to achieve. It might feel that way because everyone and their grandmother apparently is pushing you always to feel happy. That’s not the point here.
Within the human emotional spectrum, happiness rates pretty high. It might have gotten a “9” back in the day when Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” had its weekly “Rate-A-Record” segment (side note: for you younger kids, YouTube it and you’ll understand what I mean).
It can feel, though, at times like people are pushing you to feel happy or be happy all the time. Like, every minute you are awake or breathing then happiness must exude from your energy like fairies flying off a bush.
Are there people who naturally wake up feeling happy every morning? Yeah, they are out there. They bounce out of bed like Tigger, grab their top hat, and start singing “Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy” at the top of their lungs. Others just want their coffee… like now.
People have written books and created online courses solely on the topic of happiness. Believe me, I’m all for happiness and believe in the power of its energy. Yet, I also believe it’s worth a little time to discuss the difference between feeling happy and being happy, especially for your own emotional health.
What does it mean to “feel happy?”
Is this something that you have to learn about because life’s been so damned hard that happiness, even the mere thought of it, looks like a stranger in the night?
You might look at a sunrise or sunset and have a sense of peace and serenity come over you right in the moment. The natural beauty of looking up at bright stars in the clear night sky sends your heart soaring into a stratosphere of pleasure. The feeling you have can be identified as happiness.
A lot of people grow up even into adulthood always being serious about life. The hardness of getting through every single day can be overwhelming. Much like pushing that boulder up the side of a mountain, reaching a pinnacle of feeling happy can be a struggle.
You want it badly because you look around and see everyone else feeling this feeling that you don’t have. You start to ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” (Answer: nothing, so take a breath.)
Then you start playing “The Comparision Game,” looking at your life and getting on social media, seeing how your friends’ lives are exciting, joyous, and amazing…and you spend time wondering how to get that type of life yourself so that you can feel happy.
That game people play with themselves is never a winning parlay.
Did you know that you can sit down, read a book all by yourself, and feel happy doing it? If that time brings you the feeling of happiness, then congrats, you win the golden ticket and can go see Willy Wonka right now.
Remember, you don’t have to set “Feeling Happiness” as a thing on your “got-to-get-done” list. You and I have a lot of inner obstacles to overcome when trying to feel this feeling: our thoughts, embedded emotions, traumatic pasts, and other things.
Is “feeling happy” achievable? Yes. It takes baby steps. One truly cannot jump from consistent sadness to consistent happiness in one day. That might be against what you hear or read all the time, but it’s a process. Give yourself time to bring happiness into your life. As you do this, then you will reap its gifts.
Now about “being happy,” which sounds like someone is giving you a command to live this way all the time.
“Be Happy,” the magician or sorceress with the wand in their hand points toward you. Boom! The potion has been delivered and now you are “being happy.”
That’s a nice way to think about “being happy” actually happening, yet it doesn’t work like that at all. “Being happy” assumes (and you know what is said about assuming, I presume?) that you have the “being still” part down pat. You don’t? Join the crowd.
You are so busy taking care of family, friends, loved ones, seeing who just said what on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, trying to earn or receive money to survive one day to the next, going to the gym, eating right, eating wrong, sleeping too much, sleeping too little, worrying and yelling about the state of the world… how in the hell can you “be” with all of this activity taking place?
You can’t. Listen up, my brothers and sisters. “Being happy” starts with a state of being, which means you have to kind of learn how to simply be and attain a state of happiness one minute at a time.
Science (remember that?) has shown the wonderful effects of meditation on your brain and body. Teachers like Dr. Joe Dispenza and others share techniques about meditation, yet I’ll admit reading Dispenza’s work and the science behind it all is fascinating to me.
“Being happy” is just as important as “feeling happy.” Getting into a state of quieting down “the committee meeting in your mind” does take time.
In other words, your mind slows down and you do, too. Your mind becomes quieter. The pressing issues in your life aren’t pressing against your prefrontal cortex so much. Your breath slows down. You actually can breathe all the way down into your diaphragm.
Of course, Google is your friend (I think) so you can look up “being happy” and see what search results come up for you.
Is it worth taking a little time out of your busy to-do life and learn about “being happy?” That’s your call. I still have to work on this area of my life every day. Emotions do play a role in whether or not you can live in a consistent state of “being happy.” If you are calm, then it’s easier; if you are angry, then it’s harder.
Life isn’t easy all of the time. You know this. I do, too. “Being happy,” though, helps navigate the choppy waters a whole lot better.
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The gifts of feeling and being happy are numerous. Imagine if almost every interaction you had with another human being in one day was, for the most part, happy. It would fill up your own heart with not only happiness but love.
Love? Yeah, I said love. For love is a byproduct of happiness. It simply gets a short shrift because it’s not part of the Big Show of happiness. The energy of love flows through your heart all the time. It never stops. Happiness accelerates this loving energy. See, the more happiness you carry within yourself then the more love will appear all-around your environment.
This love isn’t romantic in nature, although if it’s part of the picture then let it walk in stylin’ and profilin’ like Ric Flair.
No, this love energy is a big gift from happiness. Contentment, peace, joy, serenity, kindness, compassion, empathy, grace, and seeing your life glass as half-full and not half-empty are gifts, too.
Remember that you are worthy of feeling and being happy. History gives plenty of examples of individuals who have seen the worst in human behavior and found gifts in the horror of pain and death.
Today, let yourself embrace the energy of happiness. You deserve it.
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Photo Credit: @lephunghia on Unsplash